A copy of the orientation paper outlining plans for the new Regulation, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) regulatory regime has been leaked from the European Commission.

The paper gives additional insights on cost and benefit estimates for the system, as well as revealing a number of new policy elements.

Estimated costs

The costs and benefits of implementing REACH are estimated to be in the region of €3.6bn (£2.5bn) over 10 years for the testing and registration of chemicals.

The paper adds an additional €14-26bn (£9.8-18.2bn) as potential indirect costs for the period up to 2020. The cost of running the system would also include a one-off expense of €400m (£280m) for a new agency, which would manage the administrative aspects of the regime and probably be based at the site of the existing European Chemicals Bureau in Italy.

Benefits to health and the environment should mitigate this, although only occupational health benefits are quantified in the paper – estimated at €18-54bn (£12.6-37.9m) over 30 years, with the range reflecting differing assumptions of REACH’s ability to discover and control unknown carcinogens and the monetary value of lives saved.

Policy changes

In terms of specific policy measures, chemical firms would have to register substances produced or imported in quantities over one tonne per manufacturer or importer.

The registration data requirements would increase incrementally at thresholds of 10t, 100t and 1,000t. Registration deadlines would start three years after the legislation’s entry into force for substances over 1,000t, down to 11 years for the one tonne level.

Measures aimed at the protection of health and the environment, and ensuring the competitiveness of EU industry are set out, including:

  • greater coverage;

  • enabling member states to carry out evaluations of the information on registered substances and request further information if necessary;

  • a faster process to introduce EU-wide restrictions;

  • firms to face increasing demands to demonstrate that their substances can and will be used safely – they will only be able to market chemicals classed as being “of very high concern” if they can demonstrate that the substance can be used safely or that the socio-economic benefits outweigh the risks;

  • introduction of a

    pre-registration phase for intermediates and polymers;

  • simplifying registration requirements for low tonnages to help SMEs;

  • encouraging joint registration by a number of enterprises to reduce costs;

  • greater information provision flexibility, allowing for some avoidance of testing and information provision if likely exposure doesn’t justify it; and

  • allowing “product and process orientated” R&D to take place without registration for five years to encourage innovation. This period is potentially extendable to 10 years.

The College of Commissioners will comment on the paper, and the text will then be subject to a five-week internet consultation. Following this, the revised draft will be sent to the Commission for adoption.

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